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Alex Kovalev, Mark Streit score as Canadiens beat slumping Isles 3-1

The Canadian Press
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Montreal Canadiens\' goaltender Cristobal Huet, from France, comes out of his net to poke check the puck away from New York Islanders\' Blake Comeau near the blue line during third period NHL hockey action in Montreal Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz Author: The Hockey News

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Alex Kovalev, Mark Streit score as Canadiens beat slumping Isles 3-1

The Canadian Press
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MONTREAL - Mark Streit makes it clear - he prefers to play on defence, but isn't going to complain when coach Guy Carbonneau puts him on the wing.

So after a few weeks back at the blueline, the versatile Streit was on the Canadiens checking line on Saturday afternoon and responded with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

"It's not easy," he said of the transition. "I really like to play on defence, but sometimes the coach has no other choice.

"I just try to keep things simple This time, it was easy because the whole team played so well."

Alex Kovalev also had a goal and an assist while Tomas Plekanec and Mathieu Dandenault had the other goals for the 28-15-9 Canadiens, who are 11-2-3 in their last 16 games and have gone five straight with at least one point.

Montreal, which struggled at home earlier this season, is 5-1-1 in its last seven at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens remain at home to face the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon.

Blake Comeau scored for the 24-23-6 Islanders, who have lost four in a row and have only one win in their last seven games.

"Turnovers are big when you play a team as talented as Montreal," said Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro. "They're a great transition team and they capitalize on your mistakes.

"It's getting old coming to the rink and losing all the time. It's something we have to snap out of."

Streit, in his third NHL season, began switching between defence and the left wing midway through last season and, after a rough transition period, turned in a good season with 10 goals and 26 assists.

This season, he has also replaced the departed Sheldon Souray on the point on the power play and already has eight goals and 28 assists - matching his 36 points from 2006-07.

It will likely lead to a nice raise from the humble US$600,000 he is earning this season - and he can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

But the captain of the Swiss Olympic team, drafted by Montreal 262nd overall in 2004 when he was already 27, said he isn't thinking about money or points these days.

"It's not the main thing on my mind," the 30-year-old said. "The end of last season (when the Canadiens were eliminated from the playoffs in the final game) was heartbreaking for everybody on the team and in the whole city.

"This year, it's all about the playoffs. We're going game by game and trying to win each game. If we put personal stuff in the background, we'll be successful. For myself, I'm getting a lot of ice time now and things are going well."

Carbonneau put Streit back at forward when he brought Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault back into the lineup after sitting out several games. It was Streit who set up Dandenault for an insurance goal with 2:39 left to play, waiting with the puck at the side of the net for his linemate to get set up in front of the crease for a tap-in goal.

"I was looking for Dandenault because he didn't play a few games and he had a tough time," added Streit.

The Canadiens came out strong and had three power plays early but failed to score on the NHL Eastern Conference's best penalty killing unit. The Islanders then had a two-man advantage late in the first frame, but Bill Guerin and Marc-Andre Bergeron both hit posts.

Kovalev was killing a penalty when he picked off Guerin's cross-ice pass and dropped the puck on the rush to Plekanec for a high shot that beat DiPietro on the short side 37 seconds into the second period. It was Montreal's seventh shorthanded goal of the season.

Miroslav Satan stripped Brisebois of the puck and slid a pass to Comeau on an odd-man rush to put a backhander under Cristobal Huet at 5:01.

Streit moved in from the point to bang in a Saku Koivu pass on a power play at 7:32 and Kovalev took a feed from Andrei Markov after a turnover in the neutral zone to beat DiPietro at 12:35.

A timekeeper's mistake had the first period end 11 seconds early. After the intermission, the teams played 11 seconds, then changed ends for the second frame. It hurt the Isles, who were on a power play at the time.

Notes: After losing in overtime on Thursday, the Canadiens took Steve Begin and Tom Kostopoulos out of the lineup and put in Brisebois and Dandenault. ... Aaron Johnson sat out for New York, which is missing Shawn Bates (hip) and Chris Campoli (shoulder) for the season, while Jon Sim (knee) is out indefinitely. The Isles are (0-3-1) in afternoon games this season.

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Alex Kovalev, Mark Streit score as Canadiens beat slumping Isles 3-1